GTPulse: Traverse City Sisters Fulfill Their Grandmother’s Wish To Host Bnb Guests

Marissa Wege greeted me with a warm smile and pink-cheeked baby in her arms. The baby belongs to her sister Sophie Dakoske, and the house where I met both of them belonged to their grandma Constance Martin. 

The house used to belong to a train conductor because it conveniently sat right next to the railroad tracks that is now the TART trail.

“My grandmother lived in this house the past 40 years. The railroad used to run here so when I was young we’d put pennies on the railroad, it was so fun. She had a pool back here so we’d spend our summers going back and forth from the train tracks to the pool.”

Constance used to spend lazy afternoons with friends on her back sun porch talking about how she would love to turn the home into a bed and breakfast. With travelers always getting on and off the train, she knew the house would be an attractive boarding option. Despite dreaming of being a BnB owner, Constance’s dream didn’t come to be during her lifetime. She lived in the house alone and was somewhat of an isolated woman who enjoyed her solitude.

“As she got older, it was eight or nine years ago she got sick. She never made it into a bed and breakfast but we would always talk about it. She always had these big ideas.”

Constance eventually moved to an assisted living home and Marissa and Sophie assisted their grandmother with an estate sale, where they purged 40 years of accumulated stuff. Constance saw a lot of the home’s transformation.

“She would come back while we’re painting, she would help us decorate and do whatever she could.”

Constance had lived a life without a husband in that home. She pushed limits on what was expected from a woman of her time. She made her own furniture, cleared ice off of her own roof and kept the house up by herself.

“Growing up in her generation without a husband, people weren’t nice.”

The home may have been owned by a single woman, but plenty of love grew there and continued to do so after Constance moved into her senior apartment.

“The first guests we had in this house were a couple and at the time, Airbnb was just kind of starting out. He proposed to his girlfriend in this house. I got to tell my grandma the story after, and she was getting to have these experiences through guests.”

The house was completely gutted when Marissa took it over, but she’s made a point to leave items that were owned by her grandma all over the house. We drank out of coffee cups that were hers, and an old Elmwood Township picture history book features the Martin House on the cover, back when it was just a little shack by the railroad tracks.

The name, Martin house, comes from Constance’s maiden last name, but it was also woven into other parts of Marissa’s life.

“We were just talking about birds, there’s so much wildlife out here, and a girlfriend gifted me with a martin house, and then my husband has Martin in his family as well so it just all kind of came together perfectly.”

Marissa Wege is a lifestyle goddess. The other two vacation rentals she owns are just as aesthetically pleasing as the Martin House. She’s put a lot into making the homes comfortable and interesting and encourages guests to go through drawers and cabinets.

“That’s part of the journey,” Marissa said and Sophia pulled out a comically large marriage license from another time with a picture of a somber-looking wife, and a husband holding a shotgun. “This is real. That’s our aunt!”

Beyond the houses looking good, she’s worked to create branding around the homes through social media and her website Northern Migration.  The brand has extended beyond the homes through a small book Marissa published. The Northern Migration Field Guide is part directory on Northern Michigan and part journal. She lists everything from the best places for people to get a picnic sandwich ( Mary’s Kitchen Port) to the best view in town (Pyramid Point, obviously) and leaves space for you to write down thoughts and notes next to the places you’ve been. The idea for the book rooted in wanting to give her guests the best Northern Michigan experience possible, but she quickly found that locals loved the little field guide too.

“We’d get calls from friends of friends who wanted the book. So we were running around town pushing it, we start selling ten here, ten there. We get a phone call from one of the local businesses and they wanted to order a bunch of our books to send as gifts to clients, so we sold out all of the books. When we reprinted we sold out again!” Marissa said. “I just want people to have the best cookies, the best food, the best shopping experience”

Marissa credits much of Northern Migratin’s success to Sophie.

“I’m so lucky to have her, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without her.”

The sisters are both Traverse City natives, and the name Northern Migration came from the observation of how many people are moving to the area, but they’ve seen tourists and locals alike rent the homes.

“We’ve had really cool winter elopements, people reach out to do photoshoots. Bridal shoots with flowers, editorial stuff. It’s fun We say yes to everything. The light’s great and we want people to love this space as much as we do.”

Marissas has created a lifestyle brand through Northern Migration and it’s a way for anyone to immerse themselves in Northern Michigan beauty, whether you’re a traveler or a local.


Categories: GTPulse